Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
1. We have safely returned from our Safari, which is actually a very significant aspect of the trip considering our daily near-death experiences. We saw 21 lions total. The first night we watched a lion crouching and hunting a herd of wildebeast, and later saw 9 lions eating one. EPIC. The next day we stalked a few lions in the grass and then watched the vultures eat the leftovers of the pregnant lion. At one point Megan was sticking her camera out her window to take a picture and only shut it when the lion was approximately 5 feet from the car. Probs a good idea on her part. We walked amongst hippos and crocs in Tanzania (don't worry we had an armed soldier with us; that didn't calm my nerves though). We also saw cheetahs, a black rhino (the rarest), countless zebras and wildebeast, ostriches, hyenas, impala, elephants, giraffes, etc. You name it, we saw it (except leopards). We slept in tents at night and one night we heard a very cat-like growl and panic ensued. I thought I would be eaten by a lion in my sleep. But the Maasai people (who were our guards) have to hunt lions with spears before reaching adulthood so my confidence in them was high. The driving is where death nearly came in countless times, but it seems to be that way no matter where you go in Kenya. This drive was 5 hours on roads that felt more like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland than a road. We almost ran over a snake but were told to wait until it passed and back up because it can spit in the car or slither up inside... sick. Overall, it was AWESOME.
2. We have started our second week of school here, teaching various subjects and have had some negative encounters with the Educational Director here. She is newer than we are and is implementing new ideas which are not sitting well with the national teachers, and in turn do not sit well with us. The expectations they have for us seem to be very high and as none of us are qualified teachers, the stress level among our house (which includes 12 mini-missionsaries like us) is rising, but we are all feeling the exact same thing so we are in it together. Our relationships with the other mini-missionaries here is awesome. We are like one big family and it's been wonderful getting to know them all.
3. We still have not gone to see Harry Potter yet. Hopefully this weekend.
4. We miss you all and love you!
Amy Wagoner x4
Friday, July 24, 2009
Week 2: We did a holiday bible club in Convoy (the tiny town we were staying in) in the afternoons with help from a Belfast team. We also did a teen drop in event in the pool hall under our flat at night. The first night we had about 10 kids, but after that word got out and we had between 30-40 kids coming through on Thursday and Friday. They asked if we are coming back next year, which was really encouraging. Even though it didn't feel like we were really evangalising, it was obvious that we were helping them out by giving them a place to hang out off of the streets and engaging in conversation with them. We were very blessed on the 4th of July- the family that was hosting us planned a huge barn dance/ social for us, and there were about 175 people in attendance. There was lots of dancing. And American flags. :) It was bittersweet leaving Donegal since we spent two weeks there and met lots of great people, but we were excited to move on and experience new things...plus, it was onto our holiday!
Week 3: Vacation!! We spent two nights in Downhill, at a hostel owned by a former Inn-goer. It was so beautiful- right on the ocean. We managed to pack all of the North Coast tourist attractions into one day- the rope bridge, the Giant's Causeway, PortRush, Mussedin Temple and the Downhill estate. The last we stumbled upon on our walk home. It was absolutely amazing. It was about 10:30 at night (thank goodness it stays light until at least 11 pm each night) when we found it, so we were the only ones there and looking at the beauty of God's creation definitely helped us to connect. We realized how small of a world it was when we met the two hostel employees- both from Seattle. One was best friends with Chase's brother from UPS and the other a fellow Inn-goer and classmate of Lindsay's. We invited the latter to join us for the rest of our holiday and became Team Ireland +1 or rather Team Scotland for 3 days. Edinbrough is the most beautiful city we have ever seen. We went to the castle, museums, a couple of walking tours...basically we packed as much in as we could. We also tried the traditional scottish meal of haggis, nips and tatties (sheep inards, potatoes, and squash like veggies). Though it sounds horrible, it was actually pretty decent. Holiday was great, but almost more tiring than actually running the holiday bible clubs. We had one day to recoup at the Presbyterian Residence Halls and then it was off to Ballykelly for Week 4!
Week 4: We were on our first official PCI outreach team this week. Basically that means we were living and serving with 16 other Christians (aged 17-29) from Northern Ireland. It was absolutely amazing. We didn't have the best turnout to our activities because it was the week of the 12th of July (a national holiday over here) and a lot of people were off on holiday, but we are confident that the children God wanted us to reach were present, and the low numbers allowed us lots of time to bond as a team. We ran a holiday bible club in the mornings- the theme was Joseph, and we had a complete setup with a mummy and everything. It was pretty impressive for a holiday bible club. Chase and Thoma got to participate in the drama each day and Lindsay had some fun with the bible quiz on Friday- she got her face covered in whipped cream and the kids threw cheetos at her face for points. We had outreach activities in the afternoon, which involved things such as Rounders games (which is just like baseball), pea hunts, football games (soccer), and face painting. In the evenings we had teen events, which involved SingStar and Mariokart tournaments on the Wii and the sharing of testimonies. It was really great to be with people our own age for a change, and allowed us the opportunity to build lots of great friendships. But as soon as we were starting to form a little family, the week was over and it was onto Tullycarnet!
Week 5: This week has definitely gone by the fastest of our whole trip. It was easy to come into this week with low expectations, especially after the amazing week we had in Ballykelly. But we have been blown out of the water with our week of service here. In the afternoons we have been cleaning up the area through a Streetreach, picking up rubbish, clearing public walkways, and tending to people's gardens. It has been great to finally be doing something where we can see the difference we are making. We've also had a lot of theological discussion with our team leader, which Thoma has really enjoyed. We've been doing various activities in the evenings- Monday was girl's pamper parlour and boy's football, Tuesday we had the Christian Motorcycle Association bring their bikes in, Wednesday we had crafts and activities for the kids and an inter generational tea dance for the older folk of the community. Thursday was a bbq, and we finished off the week with Tullycarnet's Got Talent on Friday. Lindsay entered with a cheerleading routine, and Tyler and Chase got to judge. Though it's a smaller and younger team this week we have still been able to form some great friendships.
Please pray that our team is able to stay focused during our last three weeks. We have another week of holiday starting tomorrow, where we will be heading to Dublin and Dingle (for the U2 concert and then a few days of rest and relaxation), followed by a week in the Presbyterian Residence Halls for a tech camp, and finally a week of outreach in Lisnabren.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Two weekends ago we went to Pancevo (pronounced Panchevo), to visit EUS students over fresh-squeezed orange juice in a café that was built inside an old train. The next morning (Sunday) we woke up early and road-tripped with Samuil to the south of Serbia. We met EUS students and others from a small protestant church in Leskovac (pronounced Leskovach), where we were warmly greeted and had a great day touring their town, sharing stories, and getting to know each other. Leskocav is famous for their barbeque (AKA meat), and so we ordered lots of Cvapi, bread, and “salad”, and had a family-style lunch in the middle of the small church meeting area. Dragon (the pastor and father) brought a big honeycomb for dessert----everyone took spoons and dug in! The whole day was filled with fellowship, optimistic spirits, laughter, and encouragement on both ends.
We have completed our first session at the Bozidar Adzija, the English school where we are teaching, completing a total of 60 classes. Emily and Casey’s (teaching 7th graders) had a student cry on the last day of class! Three students in Cassie and Carolyn’s class (teaching 16 year olds- adults), invited us over to dinner at their house the other night, which was a blast as we continued to build cross-cultural friendships. It is times like these that you really realize that you can be all the way across the world, yet find way more similarities than differences in people.
Because of our busy schedule and a more sporadic summer schedule at the Roma school, we have only visited the gypsies once since our last update, and there were fewer children because the rest were on an excursion outside of Belgrade. The children LOVE “baby shark” (a classic, if you ask anyone who has been on the Dominican Republic spring break trip!).
We continue to have EUS “parties” and have had a pretty good number of students, new and old, come each week---even with many being out-of-town on summer vacations with their families. Tuesday nights are a great way to meet university students who are involved in EUS, as well as invite friends that we have met outside of EUS so that we can continue to grow in those friendships as well as introduce them to people like Samuil, Jelena, and other EUS students.
All four of us would agree that the best part of our trip thus far has been the relationships that we have started to build. Whether it is with our students at the English school, EUS university students, or people we have met through Samuil’s many “connections”, the friendships that we have built with people here have presented opportunities for positive growth and challenges---the openness of Serbians invites dynamic conversations, the sharing of honest testimonies, laughter, and funny cultural confusions. These relationships have been such a blessing to us!
Tomorrow (Thursday, at 11:30pm), we leave for Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia. We will return on August 2nd (tentatively---with Serbian timeliness, this could likely change!), and get ready to embark on our last couple weeks in Belgrade.
Some other points of interest:
1.) In Serbia, their version of “the third wheel” is “the 13th piglet” because pigs have 12 nipples for the piglets to eat from, and the 13th is left “alone”.
2.) On Friday it is expected to be 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of the abnormal rain that we had a couple weeks ago, the city was unable to spray the anti-mosquito chemicals, so we were eaten alive (Cassie had 40 mosquito bites----just on her legs). Thankfully, yesterday it was sprayed and we can already tell the difference.
3.) One of our weekly highlights are our times with Samuil, drinking coffee, having bible studies, planning our crazy weeks, eating gelato----and never without a lot of his hyper-speed energy and contagious laugh.
We will post an update upon our return of trip!
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Sorry about not writing for the past couple of weeks. We have said since last Friday that we were going to blog and roughly about 5 days ago we started a game of Risk so that has taken priority over our lives. But have no fear Alyssa is almost dead (in the game) so we should be wrapping it up shortly.
We have been busy busy with English classes, Women's Discussion, Men's Discussion, Boys and Girls Club, Bible Studies, and running sport activities. Our team is leading an English Class every morning from 9-10 for 3rd to 5th graders. We have been meeting daily for the past 2 weeks and things are going great. We taught the kids how to say I am awesome! (Instead of I am doing fine), numbers, colors, actions, and seasons. There are 4 of us teaching but we have roughly 50 students so that is sometimes a bit challenging especially considering we don't speak Tigrinya, but we are absolutely loving it. So far in Women's Discussion we have discussed friendship, love, and sex. It takes awhile for the girls to get talking but when they do they have really interesting points and it is always fascinating to see how things such as dating work in their culture. Justin has been leading some heated Men's Discussions about identity, culture, westernization, and gender equality. Boys and Girls Club meet twice a week and it is basically a mini Sunday school lesson. We sing Father Abraham, If you are happy and you know it, go through the story of Abraham, and go over some bible verses. We have probably sung Father Abraham about 455 times, but that is okay the kids love it.
About a week and a half ago we went to Wukro and visited about 5 rock churches. Some of them were up huge mountains, some are built literally in the side of a mountain, and others have sketchy wood steps that you have to climb to reach to the top. It was a pretty incredible experience. We found priest bones...and a couple of others....just lying there no big deal. Don't worry we took pictures with them. Each church is filled with amazing and colorful murals of stories from the Bible. Mary is really big here so in each church their was always pictures magnifying her. Each church also has a special room for only "the most holy" and only the priests are allowed to enter in. You have to take off your shoes and socks before entering each church, which got a tad annoying but we decided it was worth the cultural experience. Our van also broke down in the middle of nowhere so we hung out of the side of the road and watched some wild monkeys!
It was awesome. At the first church we got to actually witness a ceremony and for some reason we were standing at the front of the church and were right next to the chanting priests and drums. In summary it was an incredible day and we got to witness a lot of church history.
Amber and Alyssa went to an Orthodox Church last Sunday with some of the local girls here. We had to wear white head scarves as is the tradition in Ethiopia. You stand the whole time while priest chant over microphones or speakers. It was truly amazing to see how far people walk to attend service here and you are standing next to 80 year old women and men who stand for about 4 hours every Sunday. We only stayed for about 2 hours because we got a little dizzy. Oh did we mention church starts around 5 in the morning?
Justin- ate goat heart and intestine. he said it was disgusting. we are very glad the rest of us were not with him. he loves playing tug of war with the kids everyday and often oversleeps his alarm.
Jason- is glad the Canadians are finally gone. Is getting a little intense while we play Risk. And loves getting Ethiopian food at our favorite restaurant Hawk Finn (Huck Finn)
Alyssa- almost ate a bug that looks like an espresso bean. Is getting wiped off the world which she is not too happy about. (Risk) And loves sketching for the little children.
Amber- rode a wild camel and lived! It was awesome. She came back from almost being dominated and is now taking over the world. (She has South America, Africa, Europe, and is working on killing Justin off North America) She loves teaching English to the little kids and playing Mango Mango with the little girls.
Our time in Mekele is flying by and we are loving every minute of it.
Thank you for all of our supporters who are praying for our team while we are here. We ask for prayers for health, we haven't gotten sick in awhile and as our time is wrapping off we want to continue to stay strong and healthy, energy, the days at the youth center are often long and draining and sometimes it is difficult to find the strength to go back, continual team unity (Risk has put some division in our team) :), and continual seeking and guidance from the Lord to serve Him and the children of Mekele.
so what´s been going on the dominican these days. most excitingly, last night there was an epic rainstorm ALL night long... which is a lot louder when you´re sleeping under tin roofs! but we all loved it. with coffee this morning, it was like a little taste of home! however, downpours tend to make working in the bateyes a little more difficult, as don bosco and los robles are pretty much out of reach unless the roads are clear and dry. where last week we were pretty much spending both mornings and afternoons in the villages all week, this week has looked quite different, and in the mornings we haven´t been able to leave at all to do physical and eye exams in the bateyes. instead, the clinic recently got a gigantic shipping of supplies, so we´ve spent some time trying to organize those into their "places" and taking inventory. today, we got a fun new task! COTN recently approved an abstinence and HIV-AIDS education program for the DR. they have used it in africa before, so we are currently running through and translating the manual into spanish, as well as trying to figure out how to make it culturally appropriate, by talking with the nurses and translators here. we´re really excited to be a part of this project, since HIV-AIDS education is something we´re all interested in! even though we won´t actually get to go out and teach any of these things, we´re happy to know that the program is available for other teams and the staff to use in the future. while AIDS isn´t a huge problem in the DR, as it is in many other countries, there is a lot of negative stigma associated with the disease. so we´re hoping that this program will try to curb that by distributing accurate information.
in other news, english classes are still going well. i think we´ve all experienced moments of great frustration as well as moments where everyone is excited about what they are learning, so that´s been great insight into the life of a teacher! we´ve really enjoyed the relationships we´re forming in the bateyes. additionally, our entire intern team has really enjoyed being able to all come together and work on updating sponsorship files in the different villages. we LOVE the days when there are older kids around to help us organize. this is a concrete way that we know we are making a difference and doing something here, which is always very comforting, since there are a lot of things we do where we don´t see the results.
this weekend all of the interns and their families have a day trip planned to one of the nearby beaches, and we´re really getting excited about the surgery team coming from the capital in a week and a half. its crazy to think that we only have one more full week working in our various ministry groups! two weeks from today we move out from our families and into the mission house, to start finishing up, debriefing, and beginning the process of saying goodbye. crazy. but in the meantime, we still have three weeks of crazy dominican life left!
we would love some prayers, if you get a chance... we´re feeling pretty physically and emotionally drained as we enter our sixth week here. pray that we will find the motivation and energy to really make the most of the rest of our experience, and that we will continue to be open to what god is teaching us, especially as we start to think about how this all applies to our life at home.
thank you and god bless!
ps sorry for the lack of pictures, none of us was technologically prepared to share any of them with you!
love to all our families and friends,
Photo 1: Brit & John with our Filipina friend walking around our site in Caloocan City. There is so much garbage and mud from the monsoons piled in front of their doorsteps. So we are currently fixing their drainage problems for them!!
Photo 2: Brit & Ash trying real coconuts for the first time at a nearby market. Brit of course thought they were tasty because she is a health freak and prefers the more naturale taste as compared to the US coconut flavoring. Ash thought they sucked (tasted like sugary potatoes) and needed way, way more sugar! Photo 3: Sir Mikey with dear John Michael on his shoulders. (his name really is John Michael....weird coincidence huh?) We were babysitting some lads at Samaritana (organization that works to get prostitutes off the streets) while their mums were at Bible study. The little bugger adored Mikey and kept ordering him around in Tagalog which was real successful. It should be noted that John Michael bit the last sitter and luckily he liked Mikey enough not to give him human rabies! Photo 4: Brit & Mikey riding robotic stuffed animals. We had an unsuccessful racing session however the locals seemed to love filming our adventure; check us out on youtube! Photo 5: This is a jeepney, they are equivalent to taxi cabs back home. And yes, there are usually this pimped out. Common names for these beauts are: Baby, Amazing Grace, The Computer, etc. Owners like to have baby Disney characters, American Eagles, and Godly words painted all over the sides of them. They cost about 2 US pennies and we rebeled and went on them even though the tour books said they were "dangerous." Photo 6: This is our Filipina housemate/pal Dior. We finally got out of Metro Manila on Monday and went volcano hiking!! We took some crazy boats out to this little island that had more horses (which all looked like they where half-dead) than humans. The view was absolutely b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! The volcano is still active, note the steam in the photo! At one point their were 4 different nationalities on top of the volcano. (American, Filipino, German, Austrian) There is a lake inside the middle which has quite an upbudent amount of fish inside. It was a glorious day and definitely were awstruck by God's endless creations.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The Africa we always dreamed of...
Kibera, One of the largest slums in the world
Abby with Glen and David
Brian, Moses, Kevin, and Hilary carry laundry
Michelle, Margaret, Mindy, and Stephany
At the top of Mt. Longonot :)
1. We're about to start week 3 here. The last two weeks have included putting on a sort of camp/VBS type experience, and Monday the kids start up school again. Consequently, we will become teachers in a matter of days. We are really learning to rely on God in this area; none of us are qualified or prepared to be teaching these brilliant minds. There is a mutual feeling of not being equipped to do this work, however we are fully confident that God will give us the confidence and the wisdom to conduct a science or geography or Bible class according to Christian curriculum. PLEASE be praying for us in the coming weeks. We will be doing these same classes up through the end of our time here.
2. Friday night concluded our GAMES week, and ended with a barbeque that we put on for all 81 children, the mamas, and the staff here. We skewered raw meat for 3 hours. I now have clothes ruined by raw meat splatter... delish. The kids had never had anything quite like barbequed meat but enjoyed it. The cottages each performed a song for the group. They also made smores. Sidenote: Kenyan marshmallows=not very marshmallowey... odd things...
3. Today we were able to experience a little slice of what heaven will look like. We visited a Kenyan tea farm owned by a British woman. She gave us a tour of her old house and of the property. We were also served their finest quality of tea and a delicious 3 course meal. This was a part of Kenya that none of us had even dreamed existed. It was rolling green hills and flower gardens. Unbelievable.
4. Next weekend, Thursday through Saturday, is our Masai Mara Safari. Please also pray for safety among the wildlife and also for some great moments experiencing God's creation.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
For the last day of our retreat we took a road trip to the border of Haiti, it was very surreal to imagine that life in the Batays is better than life across that fence! The end result of the road trip lead us to one of the most breathtaking beaches on the Southern Coast of the DR...Bahia de las Aguilas. We spent the day snorkling and eating fried chicken at a private beach only accesible by a row boat that we packed 17 people into. We have come to appreciate God´s beautiful creation in a very personal way here.
We are back at work in the batays. We have been partnering with a local eye doctor, performing eye exams and extending the opportunity to those who need various corrective eye surgury and or glasses. We have learned that honey eye drops are probably not a good reccomendation. Though this may sound light hearted, it was a disheartening reality we wittnesed while treating an older almost blind man who had been using that remedy. When we are not working with the Doctor we are performing door to door health exams for sponsored children in the batays. To be invited into the houses of so many has been very eye-opening to the living and health conditions these kids face.
All in all we are healthy and have discovered how much we need to depend on God to keep us alert and give us strength and patience. We can not believe that we are half way done! Pray for energy for us in the last few weeks that lie ahead of us. Also, pray that the Lord keeps teaching us new lessons that we can bring back to the states to share with you all. We love and miss you all very much. Dios Les Bendiga! ps look how far our spanish skills have come! Until then ..
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Attempt 2. The good part about my last post being deleted is that now I get to write about more stuff. First, I want to pick up where Antje left off because I feel that the couple of sentences about our meal to celebrate the 4th didn't do justice to it. I think I speak for us all when I say that food is the thing we miss most about home (just kidding,it's for sure you guys but food is second!). That's not to say that we don't enjoy the food here because we definitely do, as Rita is an amazing cook, but eating American food made us realize just how much we miss it. The girls ended up getting good 'ol fashioned cheeseburgers, while I got filet mignon (about 20oz. of filet for $8? Yes please!). Dexter decided to order a "Whopper" which we thought was the same as the other burgers but with different condiments. To say we were wrong would be an understatement. It was literally the size of his head and weighed 5 pounds. Even if that's an exaggeration, it's not much of one?the thing was HUGE. Anyway, finished the ridiculous amount of food, which was a team effort and we topped the meal off with some apple pie and a nice food-induced coma on the drive home. Great conversation, great company, and way too much food? Perfect way to spend the 4th abroad.
On Tuesday of last week Prem took us to the India Bible Society headquarters because he had a meeting to attend there. While he was in his meeting we got to look around the exhibit that they had there, which was basically a visual display of the history of the Bible's translation into different languages. It was really interesting seeing some really old versions, some as old as the 17th century. By far the best part, for me at least, was seeing a piece of the Qumran Scrolls (aka Dead Sea Scrolls). The particular piece we saw was from the book of Isaiah and dated back to the 1stor 2nd century BC. My parents should be happy to know that contrary to my previous belief, there really are things older than them out there (just kidding, love you guys). They also had some other cool novelty biblical things like the entire Bible on one page and the book of John made into an image (I can't explain it, but a picture is worth a thousand words...literally, I guess)
I wanted to take some time to write about a pretty cool opportunity that Dexter, Antje, and I got to experience. On two consecutive days last week a teacher at the school was absent and Rita asked us to fill in as substitute teachers. This particular class was the Vocational Training class, which is a class for some of the older kids where the emphasis of the curriculum is put on practical life and job skills. The first day was...let's say "rough". Antje was working on another project for the first day so it was only Dexter and me running the class. We were initially kind of hesitant to be assertive with our authoritative role. In addition, the kids' only previous perception of us was as the goofy American kids who liked to joke around and play games. This DEFINITELY did not bode well for our control of the class. At several points during the day we told the kids to do something and they simply replied "No." That was frustrating, to say the least, and made us feel like we had lost control of the class. However,by the end of the day I think we had figured out the necessary balance of being assertive yet not unapproachable. This balance went a long way the next day. The kids were much better behaved and Antje being there made it much easier to give each kid more attention. Overall, it was a very teaching (yet positive) experience.
-The Team's worst blogger (Brian)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
1. Oh yeah, we climbed that mountain. And, proving that the world we live in is incredibly small, on the way down the mountain we met two people who are members of University Prez. And they had been on deputation before! God is Good...and very funny.
2. Every morning at 7:15 we have devotions on the porch with the employees. We sing hymns. Our favorite is when we sing "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" in kiswahili. There's bible trivia. We lose. I'd like to see you point out what territory the twelve tribes of Israel each got on a map.
3.We play soccer every saturday and sunday with the kids. Amy laughs whenever she gets the ball. Mindy looks at the ball, doesn't know what to do with it, and trips over herself. The kids seem to think we do "baby kicks". I think its because we don't hit anyone in the face when we get the ball, which they do often.
4. We have formed a friendship with our driver James. He is filled with wisdom, and answers all our stupid questions about Kenya, even the ones about the Lion King......
5. We get to go to church with the Kids on Sunday. Abby knocked a pew over while greeting the congregation.
6.Chipatis are really good fried bread circles. However chipatis with ants are not.
7. First week of games went well. Megan:19 preschoolers-dead inside. Abby: Art-tried to recreate middle school geometry project. Mindy and Amy: Music--taught songs in hyper speed.(Amy can't say the word gush without laughing fyi)
8. Twice a week we get to attend devotions with the kids at night. THEY ARE EXQUISITE! when they pray. and all the time pretty much.
9. Today we walked through Kibera, which is one of the largest slums in the world. Can't even describe it. It was so much to take in. But the 3 guys that showed us around were amazing christians and it gave us hope that they had such strength when they are faced with such extreme poverty.
10. Apparently we will be teachers when school starts because they are short staffed. Prayer needed!
Amy Wagoner x 4
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
We've really seen God working through our team this week in really amazing ways. Last week was really exhausting, with teaching English in the mornings, coffee dates in the afternoon, and late nights. Our team was looking for a way to relax and enjoy each other's company, and God definitely was faithful to us in that!
Last Friday, we went to the USA vs. Finland basketball game as part of the Universiade, basically the Olympics for University Students held here in Belgrade until July 12 (http://www.universiade-belgrade2009.org/). We found out Quincy Pondexter was on the US team, so of course we had to go see him play. We wore our UW stuff to show our Husky pride all the way across the world, and we went up to him after the game and managed to get a few pics with him. We saw him again a few nights ago, and have enjoyed seeing the US team in action. Hopefully, they'll play for the championship this Saturday. They beat Serbia by 2 points last night, so we have enjoyed reminding all of our Serbian friends about the US Victory.
This weekend was also some really great, relaxing team time for us in Novi Sad. We took a bus to Novi Sad on Saturday (about an hour and a half north of Belgrade) and visited Vanja, one of the former interns at the INN. Novi Sad was incredibly beautiful, very relaxing and a great way to slow down. It was fun to see how the Austro-Hungarian Empire influenced the region, since Belgrade was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. There are many cultural and architectural differences that still exist today. We really hope that we can go back to Novi Sad sometime soon, and get to know more of the EUS students that live there, and of course spend some time with Vanja, who was a great hostess.
Last night we had our second big party with EUS students. It was held at a new coffee shop near the University student housing, and it was a huge success. We had about 10-15 students show up, in addition to some of the EUS staff members. Some students even traveled down from Novi Sad to enjoy the evening. We hope to continue to build relationships and follow up with the students we met last night, as there were a few girls that we met that aren't involved with EUS and are really excited to get to know us.
Thank you all so much for your continued prayer for our team. You can be praying for the students that we've met, that Jesus would open their hearts to hear the Gospel. We are learning how to slow down and be still, so continued prayer for strength and rest amidst our busy days would be wonderful. We also pray that Cassie doesn't contaminate the rest of the team with her cold. It's not the swine flu...or at least we pray it's not.
The Seattle Dragons
Greetings from Mekele!
So about the last blog…..we just want to clarify that everything we said in that blog is completely true. Minus the thing about Justin and I not getting along because team dynamics are great! We just wanted a blog to be entertaining for you all to read.
This past Saturday we had a carnival for all of the kids which they loved. Played games such as 3-legged race, dizzy bats, face painting, limbo, etc and all of the kids got a little prize bag when they left which is a pretty big deal considering prizes aren't given out too often. Then to celebrate the birth of our country we went to the Nykamps house, 18 of us total (Irish, English, Canadian present) and we had a big BBQ with REAL hamburgers, baked beans, and potato salad. We finished the night with singing patriotic songs and playing catch phase.
The North Carolina team just left this morning, which will be a weird transition for us because they have been such a blessing and so much fun to have around. They performed a little puppet Bible story every morning for the children and they had SO many children lined up (usually about 100) outside our gate at around 7am, a little frustrating for us girls because it was our house and the program didn't start till 9 so they would be pounding on the gate yelling our names.
Today is a "day off" for us. We are planning for the transition that starts tomorrow. We will be teaching English classes every single morning so we are attempting to prepare a couple of lessons. They cap the classes off at 60 children so we will see how it goes… The rest of the day we are just spending some team time downtown and relaxing.
We are planning this weekend to go to Woodrow (?) to visit some rock churches. Its about a 3 hour drive through the countryside so we are looking forward to that. Women's and Men's Discussion have been going on and so far they have been awesome. The topics that arise have been really interesting and God has allowed us to talk about some taboo topics in this culture.
Thank you so much for all of the prayers. Please continue praying for energy and strength to get through each day, health and safety, pouring our love onto each one of the children, and for personal growth in our relationship with the Lord. He has been teaching all of us so many things that it is almost overwhelming to take everything in.
Hope you appreciate this less sarcastic blog.
Love, Alyssa, Amber, Jason, and Justin
P.S No running water or showers, so continue to pray for that
P.S.S Matt we don't know what you were talking about there is TONS of sugar here. It is actually overwhelming.
Monday, July 06, 2009
1. buying live chickens at the market.. and carrying them on conchos to the mission house...
2. teaching english classes every afternoon (lauren in algodon, elisa in los robles, alicia in don bosco) to varying degrees of success and noise making
3. helping out in the clinic every morning, today we finally finished updating files and next week we hope to start working in the bateyes so that yanet (the head nurse) can have a set of files for all the kids in the clinic AND the bateyes... so its much easier to access them.
4. we've had various adventures at the hospitals... lauren got sick on the 4th of july and had to run to the emergency clinic that night. everything's fine, but it was an interesting experience of being IN the health care system and dealing with some sort of a language barrier. alicia witnessed a concho accident and her family drove the victims to the public hospital... which was another experience in itself. people all over the place, little sanitation, sounds like it was chaos and defnitely an insight into what's going on in the public sector.
5. tomorrow we leave on a 3 day retreat at the PonteVedra hotel that we all know (almost) and love. we're going on some adventure in the middle but who really knows where. but really, a midway retreat?? its only been 3 weeks. but that's almost midway which is a little insane.
6. all in all, our spanish is getting better and better and we are more or less as adjusted as we are going to get to life here. the reality of what we are seeing is starting to hit us a little more, so we're working through that on a bunch of levels. but we are loving our time and the experience has been great :) we'll give more of an update when we're all together, this is lauren from an internet cafe with her host brother!!
we would love continued prayers for health, safety, and wisdom as we try to figure out everything that we are doing and seeing.
love from barahona,
1. drank iced vanilla dark roast coffee jelly caffe lattes from Starbucks!! basically an iced vanilla latte with chunks of coffee flavored jello-stuff. you know how it is when you drink bubble tea and than you get a surprising blast of tapioca balls? that is exvactly how it is. quite interesting how there are Starbucks on pretty much every corner near our house, are we in some sort of Asian Seattle?!!
2. Saw Transformers 2 in the theaters with our host dad for our first official bonding outing. Lets just say due to sitting in the front row, Britt had to visit the comfort room because her chunky latte didnt agree with her! muah ha ha ha. fun regardless, though :)
3. We have discovered public transportation here now!!. It is very convient but a tad interesting being squeezed into a small box with hundreds of other moist (aka sweaty) people.
4. On Saturday we had our first college Bible study which takes place at our host families house and they made it Fourth of July themed!! Yeah for their kindness out here. So we ate very American food and it was a hoot seeing some of the locals wearing red, white, and blue that day. there were some people from the USA and a few regular locals in the group. it was great to get to see the body of Christ from around the world in action.
5. Sunday we went to our first church service at Union Church of Manila and like everywhere else here were very kindly welcomed. We always get very grand introductions everywhere we go so that was loads of sweetness. The service was really intriguing and just so everyone knows, the head pastor at UCM used to be the Worship Pastor at UPC five years ago (Pastor Steve) and we feel that .is a very special connection that we have a fellow Seattlite all the way out here in the Philippines!! After service we were introduced to the college group that we will be doing a bible study with every Sunday while we will be here. Most of the people are between 16 and 19 because ppl graduate HS at 16 here then go off to college! We did some worship and prayer which was cool.
6. At lunch after church yesterday we ate ox tail! Nothing goes to waste out here. In my opinion, it tasted like a small chunk of flavored fat. Really scrumutous huh? Per person the meal was about $5-and that is at a gourmet restaurant!
7. I really bizzare thing to see here is how there are aisles upon aisles of skin whitening lotions!!! Dark skin is considered ugly so most people sadly try very hard to lighten their skin. We asked and found out that they have this mentality because they want to look like American celebrities. Also, most ads are are about 98% white models, it is really important for me to stress how idolized whites are here. Because of the idolization, we get stared at so incredibly much no matter where we go. Slightly uncomfortable at times but than again it is flattering that they think we are so beautiful. (especially how most of the time we look like living hell due to the fact that it is like living in large sauna here!) That might be a weird thing to blog but tis the truth.
8. Mikey got in first place out of 21 people during lazer tag yesterday!! The rest of us were so proud to be American after his beautiful victory against the Filipinos we played against! We are allowed to say this because they (college ministry kids we were bonding with) said our skin would glow while playing lazer tag. Ashlynn told them it was because he has naval training....they bought it.
9. Today we took the train to a flea market....not sure where we were but it was nice getting to see a new area. We were really confused at why there were penis shaped ashtrays at about ten of the stands....do Americans like genitalia themed sovereigns? On a brighter note, we saw a few Catholic churches and nice Filipino statues. John Fay highly enjoyed the more historical sites we saw today.
10. It is very saddening to see how much need and poverty there is everywhere. Sure we live in very nice accomadations (nicest area in the entire country) but if you just drive about 5 minutes down the road it is a completely different world. To try and paint a clearer picture, most of the Philippines (at least the greater metro Manila area) looks like one of those TV commercials you see were they show extremely saddening imagines of straving children with flies all over their bodies living in the slums asking for support. The people that Habitat helps out have an annual income of about $500. That is about $4 a day if you are lucky. It is very hard to witness and we would like to ask for prayer for the people we seeing living like this. Seeing this on a daily basis has really reaffirmed our team why we are here in the Philippines and how much our outreach is needed.
Fun Filipino Fact: 20 million people live in metro Manila during the week to work. We fall just behind Tokyo. Also, all the grocery workers (that are female of course) wear uniform dresses and heels! Same with the women security guards. So professional here!!
Words of Wisdom: What do you call a person that can speak three languages? A: Trilingual. What about a person that speaks two languages? A: Bilingual. What do you call a person that speaks only one? A: American. -Joke cracked by a college kid here.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Friday, July 03, 2009
1. Heathrow: missed flight to Nairobi. 10 hour delay. Dead inside.
2. What is Chutney? and why was it served for breakfast on an english muffin with cheese on British Airlines? Cold. we wanted to know.
3. Rerouted through Tanzania. Bird in airport. Amy: "Smells familiar."
4. Megan's first cultural misunderstanding: Employee: "welcome!" Megan: "oh i'm from seattle"
this may have been funnier due to the 40 hours already traveled without sleep...
5. Took propeller plane to Kenya where we were served mango juice and chicken pitas. best airline food yet.
6. 70 year old man got out of seat on flight to Tanzania. His pants were too loose, they stayed in the seat, his bare butt did not. Amy was across the narrow isle; needless to say, she was mooned.
7. Went to Massai Market. Got seriously ripped off by our inability to bargain well. We'll learn. (except Abby who wanted to run and cry...never want to go back)
8. Roads: no rules. there are giant holes. and they play chicken.
ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE: Blessings in disguise:
1. Due to our flight rerouting, we flew directly over Mt. Kilimanjaro on our flight from Tanzania to Kenya. Incredible. Also, within 10 minutes of leaving the airport, giraffes were sighted. This wouldn't have happened if we came on our original flight which came in late at night and it would have been too dark to see them.
2. On our flight to Tanzania, Megan was able to talk to 2 girls from Denmark who were atheists but curious about the gospel. God really provided Megan with this opportunity to share Jesus.
3. Not that we needed it, but we were given more team bonding time and we were able to see each other at our worst and we avoided all conflicts where they could have easily happened.
4. We've been here 1 day and the children know our names and call us "auntie." Words cannot describe our children. It will break our hearts to say goodbye.
5. Everyone here at the compound is unbelievably generous and the Kenyan people are really friendly and faithful. We had devotions with the village staff this morning and their knowledge of scripture was unmatched. We got to sing "What a friend we have in Jesus" in Swahili and it was awesome.
Tomorrow we're climbing a volcano.
Amy Wagoner X4 (our airport greeting from our driver)
This past weekend we went to Hebron and stopped at a small village on the way to hear from the Christian Peacemaking Team (CPT) that was living there. On our way to this village, we were stopped at a flying checkpoint (for those that don't know, this is a checkpoint within Palestine that moves on the whim of the IDF) where we waited for an hour until they finally decided to let us through, under the on-the-spot guise of being agricultural students who wanted to look at the town's "ancient farming techniques." We got an escort of five soldiers to the tiny village and during our presentation from CPT, a few people scolded the soldiers for bringing fear and guns into the peaceful village. The only real threat there was that the tea the children brought us was boiling hot. Through CPT we learned that there were many injustices occurring in the village: demolition orders on every single house, settlers chasing the kids on their way to school, people being separated from their farming land... it was very heartbreaking.
Afterwards we got back on our way to Hebron, passing the same place where we had been stopped that morning to discover the checkpoint no longer there.
Hebron was kind of a ghost town: empty streets, checkpoints every couple of blocks. We learned that there was a lot of tension in this city; partly due to the fact that the settlers living there were the most fanatic in all of Palestine...they were also American Jews from New York. I think the picture that remains in all of our minds when we think of Hebron is this one street in the market: Hanging overhead was mesh wire that sort of separated the Israeli settlers from the Palestinians below. Apparently it was put up to protect against things that were thrown down by settlers, but dirty water, acid and urine were also thrown down and got through the mesh, and so most of the shops beneath remain boarded up for safety and sanitation reasons.
We also saw the mosque where Jacob and Rebecca were said to be buried.
Sunday we had a free day so L and K went to church with their host mom at the Church of Nativity, in the Greek Orthodox part. We understood nothing but appreciated the fact that they used all their senses to feel God's presence: singing, listening, eating bread, smelling incense, standing up and sitting down constantly, etc. Afterwards we met up with J and C and headed to Jerusalem for the day. We did the Via Dolorosa, which is the route that Jesus walked on his way to the cross. It was really interesting and one of first religious encounters during our time here. We ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we got the chance to witness a short ceremony and spent a few seconds inside of what they believe is the site of Christ's tomb. Then we ate lunch at an "Armenian Pizza-Steak Restaurant" which had really gross food: we missed our host family's delicious meals. C and L also bought a guitar which we are all quite excited about. Before we left we went to the top of a building and took some amazing pictures. C and J also went to a church there that evening.
On Monday after work and class we had our first casual discussion group with the rest of the PSE and it was really awesome to hear how people are processing things and what they're thinking about. We are really blessed to be surrounded by a diverse, smart (kids from Yale, Harvard and Princeton) and justice-seeking group of people.
On Tuesday L had the unique chance to go to the graduation of school in the village she works at. It was a great opportunity to show support for the village youth that her volunteer placement works with on a daily basis. The ceremony itself was a crazy experience with many speakers, few people actually paying attention to what those speakers were saying (though no one seemed offended by this), and a break halfway through the ceremony for a snack (Coke and cake). L has had a lot of opportunities this week to continue developing relationships with the Muslim men that run the youth center and with a group of teenage girls that visit the center almost daily.
Today K and L went to their first non-violent protest (the same protest in Masara that C and J went to last week). We were a bit nervous at first, but we also felt called to stand by the Palestinians and show them our love through our support of their desire for their rights. (Don't worry parents, it was very safe!) A group of Israelis against home demolitions played drums, there were chants, and a couple guys talked about wanting to have rights for Palestinians. It was a cool experience.
On another note, we realized as we began writing this 3rd blog that we have forgotten to mention a very special friend that our team has made during our time here, a fellow that we affectionately call "Majnoon Diik," which means "Crazy Rooster" in Arabic. This rooster, that belongs to the neighbors of K and L's host family, quite literally crows 15-20 times each day. We've decided that Diik is either blind or narcoleptic (or both...?) since he either cannot see when dawn is actually breaking or he falls asleep every half hour or so, waking up over and over again thinking that he needs to crow the morning into existence.
This week in Arabic class we've been attempting to learn the Arabic script. For 3/4 members of the team, it has been extremely difficult considering both how different it is from English and the speed at which we are expected to know it (however, C is turning out to be somewhat of a showoff). Our teacher, Miss Aida, seems to have a special place in her heart for J because of his ability to giggle at inappropriate times and make the whole class laugh with him. She even made him sit up front with her and be her special helper one day this week.
Last night we had our weekly cultural night: this week it was a game of futbol between the PSE participants and the HLT staff. We lost but played hard and had fun. Afterwards there was a delicious BBQ and it was really relaxing to just hang out and talk.
We continue to discuss, think and pray both about how we are processing things now, and what we will do when we get home. Pray for clarity and wisdom and sensitivity for this complex and emotional issue. Also pray for C and K as they seek purpose in the maintenance work they are doing at HoH, for J as he finds ways to serve the people at his volunteer placement in spite of they're very limited resources, and for L as she learns how to make herself available for Christ to love the Muslim community she is working with.
Much love in Him,
These past couple of weeks have been full of bonding cultural experiences, laughter, camels, and really cute kids. We have had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of different people and look forward to sharing a bit of our recent adventures. We have continued to live quite the tourist life here as we have been blessed to see so many of the wonderful things that Antalya has to offer. We have also been really happy to start building relationships with some of the local people, as well as friends that are also from America, and even a friend from Mexico. As our work here begins, we find a lot of truth behind what we heard about Turkish culture. Being on time is rare, the last minute is never too late to change plans, and flexibility is key. The camp isn’t quite up and running yet, so we have been available to fill quite a few different roles, which has been really fun.
Last week we worked at Paul’s Place Cultural Center, which doubles as a cafe and serves as the local International Church. From 10-1 everyday we led a group of about 8 kids under the age of six in crafts, games, and songs. The first day taught us that a very loose schedule is fine- necessary even- as we had to change the plan to fit the level of communication we could achieve and short attention spans. Early on Monday we learned some survival words: no=hayır, come here=gel, and very good!=çok güzel! These, along with a very few other phrases we were able to memorize were put into repetition with endless hand motions which seemed to get the job done. The number of kids we had everyday fluctuated, and luckily we had the help of our friend Halil, who served as translator and peace-keeper, and a couple of older siblings who helped a lot and laughed only a little when we said things that were wrong or accidentally inappropriate (as with a lot of languages, there are a few English words that don’t quite mean the same things in Turkish...)
Overall, I think we would count the week a success as we had a lot of fun, the kids made lots of fun crafts, and they really opened up to us by the end of the week. It was so fun to watch them sing along to Ring Around the Rosy (even though they had no idea what they were saying) and to play countless rounds of Kedi, Kedi, Köpek (Cat, Cat, Dog...our new, easily translated version of Duck Duck Goose) with them.
This week we got to work with Pam, who works at the church with a focus on university students. We went with her to the Akdeniz Üniversite campus on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to pass out flyers to help promote an English conversation club that is offered through Paul’s Place during the summer. Because of a shooting about a year ago, it is a closed campus with lots of security. Pam wanted to ask some of the faculty to post the flyers (because you aren’t allowed to just put them up on a bulletin board) so we got to see some of the campus as we walked around looking for the right people. No on is allowed to pass out flyers on the campus, and even as we stood off of campus, on the opposite side of the street- we were approached and told that we had to have permission from the government to pass out anything. This permission ended up costing 130 TL for only 3 days. It was definitely eye-opening to see, whereas if we wanted to do the same thing at UW we wouldn’t face any opposition whatsoever. A lot of the University students are still in a position of making decisions with their families- so if it somehow got out that the English lessons were based out of a place that holds a church (even though they aren’t even held at the center) and the family gets angry, the university could get blamed, so no one wants to put their name behind the decision to allow the lessons to be advertised on campus. Through a lot of random circumstances, though, we have reached quite a few people that are really interested in coming to the classes, and we are excited to get to be teaching at the first few next week. Pam has introduced us to a lot of girls our age, and it has been really fun to get to know them a bit better. Landi has a gift of quickly connecting with the girls we have met, and has been a blessing to the rest of us as her desire to build relationships with these women is inspiring to the rest of us.
Today we got to work at a rehab center for developmentally disabled children, and it was so much fun. We went armed with a few art projects and were blessed with lots of excitement and laughter. It was a challenge as only one staff member spoke any English, so we were left once again to hand motions and any other non-verbal communication skills we have picked up in the last couple of weeks. It was neat to see how creative the staff there are with the different projects they do with the kids and we look forward to going back next week to work with them again.
On the tourist side of things, we have been busy visiting even more beautiful sights. We found our favorite beach- Konyaaltı- with clear water, surrounded by cliffs on one side, and mountains on the other. We went on a boat ride out of the old harbor and were pleasantly surprised with a little bit of rain- we felt right at home! On Sunday we went to Düden Falls where we saw some beautiful waterfalls and got to ride some camels- which is pretty much the highlight of the trip :) We also went to Aqualand- a mini Wild Waves and had a blast running around like the little kids we really are.
This weekend we look forward to going to Kemer- the town in the mountains where the kids camp is located. We will be helping with some of the work to get it up and running, which will probably happen the week after next. Also, we are taking our first overnight trip- we are going to Olympos to see the burning rocks and stay in a treehouse.
We have had a few bouts of minor illness- stomach bugs and headaches, but nothing major. Your continued prayers would be appreciated- I think we are each starting to experience little moments of missing home (people, places and foods..). Also, as our plans continue to be up in the air and we have more free time than we planned, we would love prayer for guidance with how we should be spending our time. We want to know that our time here is not wasted, and it is a struggle knowing how much to invest in certain places and relationships when we don’t know how much longer we will be here before moving to the camp.
The task of putting into words all that we have already experienced here is quite daunting. There aren’t many words that could allow me to eloquently express the sights that we have seen, the sounds we have heard, the food we’ve tasted or the feelings we’ve developed for these people. We hope, though, that between what we have recorded here, the photos we’ve taken, and the stories we will share when we get home you will be able to better grasp the fullness of this trip- because it just wouldn’t be fair to keep it to ourselves.
Your Turkish Delights
p.s Check out more pictures on our team site: http://web.me.com/brittanynation/Turkey_Trip_2009/Welcome.html
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Other than that the kids are awesome. We are at the youth center from 9-12 in the morning and come back around 2:30 and stay until around 5:30. There is a team here from North Carolina and while they have been here we have been in charge of running activites to keep the kids company. We attempted to run the mekele olympics tuesday, but it involved a lot of shouting and chaos. It was a lot of fun, but not something we plan to do again. We have taught the kids 4 square which they love, sharks and minnows, double dutch, and american football. The only problem with organized sports is that the kids dont care too much about winning, all they want to do is get out the forenjis (foreigners). So they talk in tigray and conspire against us. Table tennis is very big here and kids will play all day long, they are pretty intense.
Justin caught Jason's flu bug today but is feeling better. He loves table tennis and the kids like to refer to him as shrek.
Jason is having a rough time with his living situation. He is sharing a house with 2 Canadians..pray for him.
Alyssa has only gotten sick once, stubbed her toe while running to see donkeys, and likes playing ultimate frisbee.
Amber gets pretty into 4 square and likes to threaten the children when they try and get her out, she is the only one who hasnt gotten sick, and is constantly outcasted by justin. Pray for team dynamics.
People here love Michael Jackson and are quite upset by his death. They constantly ask about how much we love him and if we are sad he is gone. We say that we do not like him and we are actually quite glad he is gone.
But really our time here has been amazing, and God is expanding our minds to the Ethiopian culture. About 95 percent of people here are Orthdox and we have been learning lots about what this means to them and how we can apply it to our own understanding of God. People are very content and extremely friendly here with everything they have even though they are living in extreme poverty. The children love any second of attention we give them and we pray that we have enough energy to pour our love into them for the rest of our time here.
Prayers for water and rain on Ethiopia, health and sickness, and continued team dynamics. So far things are going awesome and God has been working wonders in all of our lives. Hope all is well with you.
Just remember as you heading to the beach in your bikinnis or swimming in your pool we are here in mekele hanging out with dead dogs and burned cats.
Lots of love,
Alyssa, Amber, Justin, Jason
***Editor Nolan's note - the above entry is filled with enriched sarcasm. It is up to you to decide what is real and what is not. End of note ***
*** Actually, you guys should know that everything we said is true... to some degree - Team Ethiopia ***
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
We can't believe it's already week 2 here in Belgrade. Our days here have been so busy that time has flown by!
Since we last wrote, we have been really getting into our English classes here. Casey and Emily are enjoying learning some Serbian from their students, too. They taught us how to count, how to ask for hot coffee, and how to say "I don't speak Serbian" (Ja ne govorim Srpski). The last one has proven to be really helpful. The kids are learning important American phrases like "tailgating", "brainstorming", and "peel out". We are now facebook friends with them (they are 13 years old and have facebook).
Carolyn and Cassie have a few more students than they did last week, and have had great conversations, debates, and discussions about cross cultural issues between Serbians and Americans. They are working hard to keep the students engaged and not bored with grammar lessons. Many of the students are taking the class so they can apply and interview for English-speaking jobs. This week, their class will discuss the stray dog problems in Belgrade, the division between church and government, Serbia joining the EU, and long-distance relationships. Quite the range of topics.
After teaching in the morning, our team usually ends up meeting with students or friends we have made here, including EUS staff members and student leaders. However, a good chunk of our days are taken up with riding the buses and getting from one place to the other. We are constantly amazed by how big this city is!
Last weekend, we had a really great time meeting with students and having some much-needed team time. On Friday, we had a party with EUS students in Belgrade. We ate cevapi, which is REALLY good Serbian barbeque. You eat it with yogurt, ketchup or onions, along with bread and olives. We were disappointed with the turnout, but most students are finishing up exams so hopefully they will be able to attend our next party. We loved the cevapi though, and proceeded to eat it for the next 3 meals. Here is Bojan (I probably totally butchered the spelling) showing us how to eat cvevapi.
On Saturday night, we had a chance to get together with some of the Serbian women's softball players. We had dinner with them and a few sports journalists, Bulgarian softball players, and some other big shots in the Serbian softball world. It was SO fun! We're really enjoying getting to know these women, especially since they aren't believers and don't really know why we are here in Serbia. We're just loving them as much as we can and trying to build friendships with them.
We also had some great team time this weekend. With how packed our days are, we really haven't had too much time to get together and pray and do a bible study together as a team, especially since we're split up at two different flats.
Yesterday we got the chance to visit the Parliament building here in Belgrade. We visited with a member of Parliament who works specifically with American issues. He talked about his desire to see Serbian one day be a part of the EU, and talked about how he thinks that may happen within the next 5-6 years. He also shared his opinions about President Obama - he's not optimistic that Obama will be successful, but he says he'll have to wait and see. He was also very curious about our perceptions of Serbia. He's really passionate about creating a stronger relationship between Americans and Serbians, and he sees PR and marketing as a way to do that.
Last night we also discovered a hidden treasure here in Belgrade: blueberry beer! Here we are enjoying our fruity beers at our new favorite bar in Belgrade, the Black Turtle, with some friends we made from the International church we went to last Sunday.
Today was also our second day working with the Gypsy children at their preschool. We learned how to ask them their names ("kako se zoveš") and that was helpful. We wish we knew how to give them directions and teach them songs, but we brought along Nada, Casey and Cassie's host mom, and she was able to tell them the important things. The kids are so hopeful and encouraging. It was interesting to hear from Nada what Serbians think of the Gypsy people - many Serbs think they are dirty, shady people that can't be trusted. It's hard to think about those negative impressions when you see 15 kids running and jumping over each other playing Duck Duck Goose. We're excited to hopefully meet some University students in Belgrade and bring them with - not only to translate for us, but to also begin to break down those stereotypes.
This weekend, to celebrate the Fourth, we'll be going to the Embassy for a party with other Americans and their families here in Belgrade. After that, we'll be going to the US vs. Finland basketball game as part of the World Universiade Sporting event that's being held here in Belgrade this week and next. Tickets are 100 dinar (about $1.50) and Quincy Pondexter is on the US team! The rest of the weekend we'll be in Novi Sad, meeting with Vanja and other students there.
You can continue to pray for our team in many different ways. We pray that our relationships with people we are starting to get to know will continue to grow, and that we could share our faith with them. We'd also like pray for continued growth in our relationships with God as a team and individual.
Cao for now!
Team Serbia (Emily, Cassie, Casey, and Carolyn)